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Heart of Dragon (1985)

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For the first few minutes, Heart of Dragon — often found with “a” bonus article between “the” second and third word — could have you guessing. The opening shot would be at home in a classic kung fu film. Moments later a yellow-bandanna-sporting Jackie Chan is pulling a funny face in close up. And then… is Jackie really machine-gunning a bunch of uniformed men without blinking? After the opening scene though, Heart of Dragon gets on with being what is … (read more)

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Wheels on Meals (1984)

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At least the title is likely to catch an eye running down a list of potential viewing opportunities. The standard explanation for this strangeness is that the previous two films from the Golden Harvest studio that had English names beginning with the letter M had flopped, so the titular nouns were reversed to get away from the unlucky consonant. What the heck — a fun movie needs a fun title, and this one delivers!

Following in Bruce Lee’s footsteps with … (read more)

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Pedicab Driver (1989)

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Sammo Hung has embraced the fact he is a large fellow. Often giving his characters names that draw attention to his size — Teapot in Winners and Sinners or Moby in Wheels on Meals — or even referencing his physique in the title of the film itself — Enter the Fat Dragon or Skinny Tiger, Fatty Dragon — he has never allowed his decidedly non-traditional fighting frame to slow him down. This is amply apparent in Pedicab Driver.

Seconds … (read more)

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Millionaires Express (1986)

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This movie is ridiculous. I mean that in the best sense of the word, as in over-the-top silliness, expertly crafted to make you grin with glee or cringe with incredulity depending on your familiarity with Hong Kong’s special filmic sauce — equal parts broad visual gags, verbal comedy that doesn’t quite translate, kinetic action and a pinch or two of political incorrectness, all boiling down to a bubbling broth of good old fashioned fun.

Just look at that cast list! … (read more)

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The Last Tycoon (2012)

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Many moons ago, pro-exploitation producer-director Wong Jing and actor Chow Yun-fat hit box office and entertainment pay dirt when they teamed up for God of Gamblers. That film’s pulpy action comedy was a silly delight, and proved Wong, something of a Roger Corman for Hong Kong, had the ability to crank out popular hits that didn’t always involve jiggling boobies. It lightened up Chow’s image among niche viewers outside Hong Kong (he was best known to that point for … (read more)

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Ip Man: The Legend is Born (2010)

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Recently I watched Monsters, Gareth Edwards’ reasonably low-budget sci-fi and romance flick. Getting over the being-bashed-on-the-head subtext about racial inequality and the U.S.’ view of the poor and foreigners alike as ‘alien’, the film has a very gorgeous sense of cinematography. The landscapes are verdant, the cityscapes alive, rusted, and full of movement. Edwards’ film captures beautiful moments with economy and subtlety.

Why mention this? Because unfortunately the very next film I watched, immediately afterwards, was this film, Ip (read more)

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Ip Man 2 (2010)

This is certainly no tame squeakquel.

More an exuberant throwback to fan-favourite 1980s Hong Kong martial arts movies, with fight scene stacked upon fight scene, shamelessly caricatured gwailo villains, a breezily achieved period setting, and at times (e.g. the fish market) quite thrilling fight choreography. Flawed, without a doubt. Cheesy, yes. The plot is uninspired, the violence unnecessarily excessive at times (Sammo’s face gets a real work out) and there’s emotionally flat filler like the re-introduction of Simon Yam’s character. … (read more)

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Kung Fu Chefs (2009)

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Way back in the day, my early education in Hong Kong cinema was more along the lines of guns and hand grenades, as opposed to fists and barrel rolls. Bullet ballets, car chases, crooked cops and machete gangs; I was all over that. It wasn’t until a double bill at a local cinema — Drunken Master II and Hard Boiled, to be precise — that I realised the other side of Cantonese and Mainland action cinema. Since then, I’ve … (read more)

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